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A Report from

Birdwatching in Andalucia / Coto Donana 24th May-June 6th 2007,

Derek and Lynne Lister


Having stayed east of the Donana at Sancti Petri in  June 2004 and seen a wide and exciting list of birds we were eager to return to the area. This time we had chosen east of the Donana at Punta Umbria in the Province of Huelva. Both area have long streatchs of sand beach and enjoy a warm climate on the coast,but very hot if you travel inland. Temperatures varied from a very pleasant 24/25c on the coast to a very hot 35c inland in the Donana and surrounding countryside.Traveling to this area in Spain meant a flight to Faro in Portugal and a coach journey of 2.5 hours to the resort!


We arrived in Faro airport to cloudy and cool morning. Common Swift were everywhere, a Marsh Harrier was quartering the airfield.The journey to the hotel was slow,but not without birds, White Storks were much in evidence nesting on electricity pylons, while  a Southern Grey Shrike gave a close view near Isla Christina. Further into Spain at El Rompido,the first of many Whiskered Terns were seen.


The Hotel Barcelo Punta Umbria lies near the mouth of the Rio Odiel and has a strip of Parc natural dunes vegetation stretching 3 Kilometres west along the coast. The hotel although fairly new has breeding House Martin,Spotless Starling and regular overhead Pallid Swift,in addition to this across the road Red Rumped Swallows were daily gathering mud from a builders Site! On the edge of the hotel in the Dunes system Serin were abundant,and Sardian Warbler ,Crested Lark and Magpie common.



A varied area of vegetation,  Stone Pine, Juniper and  other scrub made up a dunes system habitat next to the hotel. A 30 minute walk daily in this habitat produced a number of interesting species. Crested Tit were common,so was small flocks of Azure Wing Magpie,other Species like Hoopoe and Green Woodpecker were also easy to locate. Woodlark and Firecrest were also seen.


This is a Laguna about 10 mins away,from the hotel and should not be missed. Viewing is very easy with a purpose built viewing platform by the main road. The Laguna was full of ducks, and huge numbers of Coot and Gadwall. Also Common Pochard and 6 pairs of Red Crested Pochard, Spoonbill,White Stork, Black Winged Stilt were all present,up to 20 Black Tern were also seen. The highlight at this site was 2 male White Headed Duck, they were often swimming close to the viewing platform. On the edge of the laguna were Hoopoe and Woodchat Shrikes.


A Superb area of Freshwater and Saltmarsh with a amazing long peninsular,the area is about 15 minutes from the hotel. The Salt lagoons were the first port of call, with a flock of 70 Flamingo. The disused saltpans were a great attraction for waders,mostly in summer plumage,highlights included Little Stint, Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper,these waders mingled with Kentish, Little Ringed and Ringed Plovers. Outstanding with these was a Dotterel.The marismas salt water lagoons ,close to the Atlantic shore were attractive to Terns and Gulls,small groups of Caspian Tern fished there along with Gull-billed, Common, Sandwich and Little Terns,a few pink flushed Slender Billed Gulls also roosted on the shore. Further along the Spit was a pool  behind fencing,here a roost of  20 Adult and immature Audouins Gulls were present. Raptors over the Marismas included Common Buzzard, Marsh and Montague’s Harriers.


These are a series of Laguna’s lying back off the N 442,the laguna at 13km  is good for a short visit,here Purple Heron and Squacco Heron were common,warblers included Great Reed, Moustached,Reed,Melodious and surprisingly Iberian Chiffchaff. Overhead were regular Common Pratincole . Whiskered Tern was numourous.The laguna at 15.6 km is found by driving about 600mtrs to the farm. Ask the farmer for permission to walk to the laguna,its well worth it. Osprey fished regularly,while Little Ringed and Kentish plover bred near the Laguna edge on small islands. Iberian Yellow Wagtail were abundant,House,Tree and Spanish Sparrow were feeding among the strawberries. A small marsh adjacent to the laguna held Purple,Grey and Squacco Heron.Little Bittern were seen close up feeding young. Also very visible were Purple Swamphens feeding young.There is also a small Bee-eater colony here..


The Coto Donana is vast and can look devoid of birds,however a trip to the the western pinewoods can produce some of the Donana woodland birds.We traveled into the pinewoods from the N442 and drove up track HF6244,this immediately produced  many Bee-eater on wires,stopping at the first fire tower about 3kms,there is a fresh water laguna,a short stay produced Short Toed Eagle,Booted Eagle,Sub Alpine and Dartford Warblers. After this point there are Sandy tracks that take you into the heath areas.Thekla Lark become very visable,and near the stream Arroyo de la Rocina,which crosses the road, Golden Oriole was breeding. Ravens drifted over the open heaths at regular intervals,and we were fortunate to get a close up view of a Lesser Kestrel hovering


The information sites at El Acebuche and El Rocina in the Coto Donana are attractively layed out,although many of the hides  viewing openings are to low for proper use, and without seats can be difficult to use. Unfortunately at this time of year there were not that many birds to be seen.At Acebuche Melodious,Dartford,Savi’s and Great Read warblers were evident.Also singing Golden oriole and Nightingale.At El Rocina,Spotted Flycatcher,Common Cuckoo,Olivaceous warbler and Blackcap were added to the list. Birds of Prey were always  very evident near El Rocio bridge, Red Kite and Black Kite  were common and Booted Eagles always in the sky.On the La Madre de las Marismas the air was thick with Whiskered Terns,Purple and Grey Herons stood next to each other,while Cattle and Little Egret fed near the edges.


Travelling inland from the Punta Umbria via the A 495 takes you through farmland and Orange Groves where Calandra Larks were fairly common, and Red Kite and Montague’s Harriers hunted close to the road. The diagnostic calls of Quail could also be heard. SanTelmo lies at the base of the Sierra Pelada hills, it’s a small village and just on the edge of it there is a disused open mine now filled with water. This is marked by a sign and indeed is being made available to public access. This is a great view point allowing observation of the forested hills for raptors! Immediately around the cliffs of the mine Crag Martins were hunting insects,While as many as four Blue Rock Thrush sang. Black-eared Wheatear  were very common,but the stars of the area were the Vultures. We counted six Black Vulture and over a hundred Griffon Vulture. They came over the hills and landed in the Pine woods north of the mine, finally using thermals they drifted off over the surrounding countryside. From this location we took the H120 Valdelmusa scenic road. Black Redstart perched on some wires and at the El de Cueva Mora we were surprised by a Rock Thrush flying over the road.


Although Bird watching was a prominent part of the Holiday mainly in the mornings and evenings, there was also a time for general relaxing and with temperature reaching 35c on some days it was foolish to be out in the hot sun. Punta Umbria is well placed to visit sights near by and with the Parc Natural next to the hotel,gentle walks would always produce birds, but a car was essential to see the variety of species that this area has to offer. A total of 138 species were seen on the holiday.

Derek and Lynne Lister

SOUTHERN ANDALUCIA :SPAIN May 24th-7th June  2007

GREAT CRESTED GREBE 2 pair with young at Laguna Palos throughout, also at El Rocio CotoDonana

LITTLE GREBE Common at the Palos Lagunas

CORMORANT 1 adult t Palos laguna las Madras

SHAG 2 off lighthouse El Espigon

GREY HERON Common in the Palos Lagunas.

PURPLE HERON Cpmmon in the Palos Lagunas

SQUACCO HERON fairly common in all Lagunas

LITTLE BITTERN present at the Palos lagunas,young seen on 26/5

LITTLE EGRET:  Common in all wetland areas

CATTLE EGRET Very common in fields,

SPOONBILL Common especially on Odiel Marismas max 40 1/6

WHITE STORK Breeding throughout the area,common

GREATER FLAMINGO: Present in the Marismas Odiel saltpans max 70 on 27/5

MALLARD Common in wetland areas.

POCHARD    Common in Lagunas

RED CRESTED POCHARD Common at Laguna El Portil,max 8.

GADWELL  Very Common in Lagnunas

GARGANEY female and 6 chicks seen Laguna Palos 3/6

WHITE HEADED DUCK 2 Males at El Portil Laguna 2/6-6/6.

SHELDUCK 1 at Marismas Odiel 5/6

GRIFFON VULTURE 100+ at San Telmo quarry.4/6

BLACK VULTURE 6 at La Sierra Pelada at San Telmo quarry. 4/6

BOOTED EAGLE  common in the  Donana max 4 scan at one time.

SHORT TOED EAGLE 1 in the northern Donana  28/5,1 near Rocinia 2/6

OSPREY  1 at Palos Laguna 26/5

BLACK KITE  Common max 17 in the air atDonana 3/6

RED KITE common in the Donana

BLACK SHOULDERED KITE 1 near Pozo del Camino 7/6

MONTAGU’S HARRIER  fairly common in field outside Huelva and on the Marismas del Odiel

MARSH HARRIER  Common in the Marismas Odiel

BUZZARD Common throughout the area.

KESTREL  fairly Common near Huelva and Donana

LESSER KESTREL 1 male in northern Donana 3/6

PEREGRINE 1 at at Marismas Odiel 28/5

MOORHEN  Resident in Lagunas

COOT: Resident in Lagunas

PURPLE GALLINUE  fairly common in all Lagunas max 5 Palos de le Madras

KINGFISHER 1 at Palos Lagunas 26/5

BLACK WINGED STILT  common Donana visitor sites/Marisma Odiel

AVOCET Common  in habitats with Black Winged Stilt.

KENTISH PLOVER  common Marisma Odiel/Donana

LITTLE RINGED PLOVER common in Lagunas Palos

RINGED PLOVER  10 in Marismas Odiel 2/6

GREY PLOVER 1 -2 present Marismas Odiel throughout.

DUNLIN  up to 20  at old saltpans Marisma Odiel

LITTLE STINT 2 at the old salt pans Marisma Odiel 27/5

KNOT 6 most visits old salt pans Marisma Odiel

TURNSTONE  1/2 on the sea Lagoons Marisma Odiel

CURLEW SANDPIPER  2 at the old Salt Pans Marisma Odiel 28/5

REDSHANK Common Marisma odiel throughout

GREENSHANK 1 Marisma Odiel 27/5

WHIMBREL max 22 Marismas Odiel 27/5

CURLEW Present throughout Marismas Odiel 2/3

BLACK TAILED GODWIT up to 10 seem Marismas Odiel  on five dates.

DOTTERIL 1 adult Marismas Odiel 5/6

BAR TAILED GODWIT  2 at Marimas Odiel 27/5

AUDOULIN’S GULL 20 at a pool El Espigon 4/6 (imms/adults)

SLENDER BILLED GULL  2 Adults Marismas Odiel 29/5,1 imm 3/6

BLACK HEADED GULL 1 imm Marismas Odiel 5/6


LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL 2  max 3 Marismas Odiel 29/5

GULL BILLED TERN : 7 max Marismas Odiel 3/6

SANDWICH TERN : max 3 Marismas Odiel 2/6

COMMON TERN Common Marismas Odiel throughout.

CASPIAN TERN  found in the Marismas Odiel,max 7 2/6

BLACK TERN : max 20 El Portil 2/6

WHISKERED TERN Very common in Lagunas and El Rocio marsh,max 40 on 3/6

LITTLE TERN : common Marismas Odiel/Lagunas Palos

COLLARED PRACTICOLE 3 at Palos Lugunas 28/5. 2  north Huelva 2/6

RED LEGGED PARTRIDGE Common in Pinewoods Parc Natural Punta Umbria

QUAIL  Calling close by in fields north of Huelva 2/6


COLLARED DOVE : very common


GREEN WOODPECKER (sharpei ) found resident at Parc natural Punta Umbria.

CUCKOO :1  Calling around Donana  5/6

COMMON SWIFT : abundant

PALLID SWIFT Common around Huelva/Punta Umbria

BEE-EATER : Common in the Donana.

HOOPOE : Common near hotel and Donana

GOLDEN ORIOLE Breeding in the western Donana wooded stream area,also Acebuche

CRESTED LARK :abundant,

THEKLA LARK Found on sandy heaths west Donana pine woods

SHORT TOED LARK : 2 Found in sand dunes area Mazadon 3/6

CALANDRA LARK several on the road north to St Telmo 4/6

WOODLARK singing near hotel ParcNatural Punta Umbria 6/6

SWALLOW very common,

RED RUMPED SWALLOW  common, breeding near hotel and around hotel pool!.

CRAG MARTIN 2 at the mine San Telmo,also by bridges in Sierra Pelanda 4/6

HOUSE MARTIN very common

SPANISH YELLOW WAGTAIL common Marisma Odiel/Donana.

WHITE WAGTAIL 1 most days around the hotel.

WREN  1-2 in denser undergrowth Parc Natural Punta Umbria

NIGHTINGALE : Common Lagunas/Donana

STONECHAT  common in North Donana

BLACK REDSTART 1 female near Valdelmusa 4/6

BLACK EARED WHEATEAR common in Sierra Pelanda

BLUE ROCK THRUSH  4 at the San Telmo mines 4/6

ROCK THRUSH 1 over the road at A 488 E de Cueva de la Mora Sierra Pelada 4/6

BLACK BIRD Fairly common

CETTIS WARBLER Common at Lugunas,

GREAT REED WARBLER Common El Portil,Donana visiting centres,Lagunas Palos.

REED WARBLER singing at Luganas,El Portil

SAVIS WARBLER 2 singing Acebuche centre 2/6

FAN TAILED WARBLER Common in fields and wetlands.

MOUSTACHED WARBLER Singing at Palos Laguna on four visits

BLACKCAP  1 singing El Rocina centre 5/6

OLIVACIOUS WARBLER 1 singing El Rocina centre 5/6

MELODIOUS WARBLER   Fairly Common,Donana visiting centres,Lagunas,Parc Natural Punta Umbria.

SUBALPINE WARBLER  fairly common,North Donana,and El telmo

DARTFORD WARBLER common western Donana.

SPECTACLED WARBLER 1 at Parc Natural  Punta Umbria 28/5


IBERIAN CHIFF-CHAFF 1 singing at Palos Lagunas 2/6



GREAT TIT fairly commen

LONG TAILED TIT small number max 7 in Parc Natural.

PENDULINE TIT 1 by upper reach of Laguna Palos Madras 26/5

FIRECREST  2 by hotel edge most days.


WOODCHAT SHRIKE common,near to hotel and in Donana

JACKDAW 2 seen near Neidla

CARRION CROW  2 seen near  Ayamonte

RAVEN Singles on all visits to the Donana,five occassions


AUZURE WINGED MAGPIE Common,especially by hotel, up to 12 seen.

SPOTLESS STARLING  very common,breeding in the hotel.


SPANISH SPARROW small numbers on the Donana,and Palos Lagunas

TREE SPARROW 3 at Luganas Palos madras 27/5

SERIN abundant near hotel and in all suitable habitats.



GOLDFINCH very common

LINNET fairly common

CIRL BUNTING Seen on the roadside route to El Telmo


138 Species


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